Caesar is the comfort food of salads

Caesar salad can be a literally perfect dish — but that's unfortunately not always the case. So make it at home!

By Michael La Corte

Deputy Food Editor

Published September 9, 2023 1:30PM (EDT)

Caesar salad (Getty Images/Tetra Images)
Caesar salad (Getty Images/Tetra Images)

Comfort food doesn't always have to be heavy, fattening or filling. As long as something lends some sense of familiarity and reassurance, some level of nostalgia or softness, then that food can be a comfort food — whether that's a rack of ribs, chicken parm, cheesecake or a quiche

For me, one dish that falls squarely within that paradigm is none other than Caesar salad.

Caesar salad is a nostalgia-inducing dish: I remember being a very little tyke and having my first Caesar and being astonished at the flavor. Later on, I enjoyed perhaps the best Caesar salad of my life at a castle in Kentucky (yup, you read that correctly). Then there's every single time I've enjoyed the Caesar at Houston's. And the list goes on and on.

I am a little incensed, however, whenever I have a dry, unappealing side Caesar with some nondescript, overly white sludge that is no more than a poor excuse for dressing — which is  all the more reason to make it at home. 

I've tweaked my recipe many a time, but I tend to emulate chef Anne Burrell's eggless recipe, just because I'm not too into the idea of loose, raw egg floating indiscriminately in my dressing (I guess I'm not equal opportunity, though, since I'm more than okay with it in raw cookie dough, albeit begrudgingly). It's also a great weeknight meal since it's a pretty streamlined dish to make. 

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As with most things, though, I'm very, very pointed with my Caesar proclivities, so here's a rundown of how I like to put mine together: 


I'm a romaine and/or iceberg guy. Nothing in between: no frilly leaves, no microgreens, definitely no baby spinach. We need a heartier, sturdier leaf to hold up to the rich thickness of the dressing. Also, please dry your lettuces throughly and completely! It's immensely important. 


I like a garlicky, large, super-crisp crouton, so I often buy a baguette or Italian bread, cube it and then crisp it up in a pan or in the oven in lots of garlic-flavored oil. Also, be sure to both dry and then season them well. Some people have gotten into bread crumbs, which I actually love in salads, but I prefer the legitimate crunch of a whole crouton for a real classic, tableside, steakhouse Caesar vibe. It also helps with some textural differentiation throughout the salad.

The egg discourse 

if you're into it, throw in an egg yolk or two! It adds to the viscosity and shine of the dressing, but I find the flavor change negligible and the sliminess of raw egg generally skeeves me out, so I leave it out. 


I'm normally a garlic aficionado through and through, oftentimes throwing in double or triple the amount that a recipe calls for, but that's for cooked garlic. I've gotten more and more sensitive to raw garlic lately; it's just too darn punchy, sharp and borderline acrid. I'd go with a single clove, grated on a microplane or minced super finely. You could also always use some garlic powder instead (maybe a sprinkle of its buddy onion powder, too?). Another option would be to forego the garlic in the dressing and cook the croutons with tons of garlic, so you're still getting the customary garlic flavor that way. A roasted garlic Caesar is also a superb idea. 


I adore a wild shower of freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano, ideally on a microplane, but pre-grated Parm is obviously totally fine. Some incorporate cheese into the dressing, which is also great, but I sometimes find that that causes the dressing to break or be a bit too solid for me? So I sometimes skip the cheese in the dressing and instead just adorn the top of the salad with an absolutely ludicrous amount of cheese.


You need the Worcestershire, you need the olive oil, you need the mustard, you need the vinegar. I often like to go with sherry, but a good red wine vinegar always works. Mustard-wise, I often go a little light on the Dijon because it can sometimes be a bit overpowering. You also need lots of lemon here. Buy organic or whole lemons. Roll them before juicing, use a reamer if you have it and use a fine-mesh strainer to catch seeds. 


Unless you're Alison Roman, you're probably not consuming anchovies with reckless abandon on the regular. I don't buy them often and I don't have a special affinity for them, but they are a must in a "real" Caesar. I'd go with one or two, personally, but if you're all about that tinned fish lifestyle and are trying to add 10 — nobody's stopping you. It's your kitchen!

Black pepper

As I've written about before, I don't use black pepper often. I just find the sharp flavor too distracting in most foods. I always abide by the Burrell notion that salt is used in everything, while black pepper should be used as a seasoning would — only in particular dishes and for certain applications. Caesar salad, though, is one of the only times in which I use lots and lots (and lots and lots) of freshly cracked black pepper, both in the dressing and over the top before covering with a mountain of Parm. Don't skimp on it! It's essential for that iconic Caesar flavor. 

Protein additions

Anything — or nothing —works here, but you obviously cannot beat the  classic grilled chicken. It's totally not necessary, though. I sometimes find that it weighs down the leaves or soaks up some of the dressing, leaving some of the salad itself undressed. 


I always make my dressing in a blender or VitaMix — I like the smoothness and consistency — but you can totally make it in a bowl with a large whisk. You want to make sure you're incorporating lots of air, though, so the dressing has some real heftness and body. 

You need to toss this salad! Do not just merely top some naked leaves with a spoonful of dressing and serve. This is the salad that the dressing needs to be properly so it's legitimately dispersed amongst the lettuces and croutons. I like using tongs for this, but if you have tossers, though, this is a perfect time to get them out.

You can also take this in different directions by either grilling the romaine, which is always a fun touch, or serving it in more of a wedge-type siltation. I also sometimes like serving entire romaine "planks" — I love the texture and the fork-and-knife aspect — but the classic application is obviously always perfect. Up to you!

Finally, be sure to use a truly enormous bowl; you'll need the space. A wooden one gives a fun, tableside appeal. 

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Caesar Salad
4 servings
Prep Time
10 minutes
Cook Time
15 minutes


5 garlic cloves, peeled, one finely minced or grated and the others left whole

2 to 3 lemons, juiced and zested

1 to 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1 to 2 teaspoons sherry vinegar (or vinegar of your choosing) 

Anchovies, packed in oil (as many or as little as you'd like, or none)

1 to 2 egg yolks (or omit)

1 teaspoon Worcestershire

1 cup "good" extra-virgin olive oil (as Ina would say), separated

Kosher salt

Freshly cracked black pepper

1 large baguette or Italian bread, cut into 1-inch cubes 

Romaine and iceberg galore

A very large chunk of Parmigiano Reggiano



  1. In a large bowl, blender or VitaMix, whisk or blend minced or grated garlic, lemon juice and zest, Dijon, vinegar, anchovies (if using), egg yolk(s) (if using) and Worcestershire until well combined.
  2. Slowly add olive oil (reserving about 2 tablespoons), incorporating until dressing begins to emulfisy and appear creamy and smooth.
  3. Season well with salt and pepper. Refrigerate so flavors can mingle. 
  4. On a large sheet tray or pan, add remaining olive oil and toss with remaining garlic and cubed baguette. Cook over medium heat, or in a oven set to 400 degrees Fahrenheit, until croutons are well-browned and crisped. Discard garlic cloves and season croutons with salt.
  5. Prepare lettuce to your liking.
  6. Toss lettuces with croutons and half of the dressing. Taste and season again. Add more dressing, if you'd like.
  7. Shower with a copious amount of grated Parm. Serve

By Michael La Corte

Michael is a food writer, recipe editor and educator based in his beloved New Jersey. After graduating from the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City, he worked in restaurants, catering and supper clubs before pivoting to food journalism and recipe development. He also holds a BA in psychology and literature from Pace University.

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